The process to achieve the consolidation of Macon and Bibb County was promised to be open and transparent. Well, not really. The local delegation has met several times in secret session and details of the evolving plan have not been forthcoming. However, as in any process, tidbits become apparent. State Rep. Nikki Randall, chairperson of the local delegation, has said that more than 90 percent of the details of the bill have been agreed on. So what are the big hairy issues yet to be decided?
We believe the delegation has agreed the new governing body will be comprised of seven to nine members. Anything less than 21 is fine with us. The mayor or chairman, would be the only official elected county wide. We believe the proposal will include term limits for not only the mayor, but commissioners. The sheriff will be the top cop rather than a police chief.
So what could be holding up the process? Pretty simple: Politics. And at the foundation of all politics is the question: Who can get elected and from what party? While Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, prefiled a bill, HB 682 that would allow for a number of offices, including county governing authorities to be elected on a non partisan ballot -- the only hang up that could be remaining is how to draw the district lines to ensure how many Republicans and Democrats could get elected.
That’s exactly what’s wrong with politics today and why we have such a divided system. Bibb County is predominately black (assumed to vote Democratic), both in population and registered voters. How do you carve up a map to ensure white voters (assumed to vote Republican) can still elect representatives and at what proportion?
It would be easy to justify a map that would have, if there are eight districts, a 6-2 or a 5-3 majority black population, or in politi-speak, either six or five majority Democratic districts. Or they could compromise and create a district with slightly more white Democrats.
Here’s a message to the local delegation. The area has proven it is far ahead of the politics. The white population has shown its willingness to vote for a county chairman who happens to be black, and blacks have elected a mayor who happens to be white, twice. Get with the program. It’s time to stop thinking in past tense. If this historic effort fails, it will allow the old, recently voted out of office politics, to make a comeback, and that’s not the direction we want this community to take.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board